Whether you are passing through or planning a long weekend, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, can accommodate you and your aircraft quite nicely.
Jackson, Mississippi, has been deemed the “City with Soul,” and I would agree with that. Yet Jackson is more than a great spot for Mississippi blues music; more significant than a locus in the Civil Rights movement; more than just a place to stop in search of authentic soul food. This state capital is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project to transform its downtown.
If you haven’t visited in a while (or ever), you need to know that Jackson offers several compelling reasons to stop for an overnight or a long weekend.
Piper Flyer Association member and area pilot Felton Watkins was kind enough to share some details about four of the airports around Jackson.
Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)
“Hawkins was established during World War II as a training base,” explained Watkins. “The facility was utilized by both American and Danish aviation training forces. A small Danish Air Force cemetery is located just east of the field where those who lost their lives while training at Hawkins are buried.”
“Hawkins remains one of the major hubs for General Aviation in the area, providing fuel, training and aircraft maintenance support,” Watkins said. The two 150-foot-wide runways are 5,300 and 3,400 feet long, respectively. Airport operations are almost evenly split between military, transient and local GA.
Hawkins Jet Center, an independent FBO, is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Full-service Avgas was $5.49/gallon when I checked in late September. The Jet Center is just 10 minutes from downtown Jackson, has a courtesy car and can arrange for a shuttle to hotels.
Alternates to Hawkins can be found in Madison, Mississippi, at Bruce Campbell Field (9 nm away); John Bell Williams Airport (10 nm away); and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International (8 nm away).
Bruce Campbell Field (KMBO)
“Campbell Field, located just north of Jackson, is fast becoming the center for General Aviation in Jackson,” Watkins reported. “The field provides training, aircraft rental and maintenance support.”
Campbell, too, is super GA-friendly with virtually no military traffic. The fuel price at Campbell was $4.97 per gallon for full-service Avgas as of Sept. 26, 2018. The single asphalt runway is 4,400 feet long.
Madison Air Center serves the field. “The people running the FBO are always friendly and willing to help you with any needs,” said Watkins. “There is a wing of the Commemorative Air Force located on the field, and they always have something going on at their hangar.”
John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)
J.B. Williams Airport is west of Jackson, near the Natchez Trace Parkway. “Williams was also a World War II training field,” said Watkins. In the early 1940s, it served as an auxiliary field for Jackson Army Air Base (now Hawkins Field).
Today, this public airport is owned and managed by Hinds Community College. Williams serves GA almost exclusively, with 98 percent of its average of 126 daily aircraft operations credited to local or transient GA.
Runway 12/30 is just shy of 5,500 feet long. A courtesy car is available, too, but if you’re depending on it, calling ahead is always a good idea. Self-serve Avgas is just $4.25 per gallon—no full-service option—and is available 24 hours with a credit card.
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)
Jackson-Evers International is utilized mainly by commercial airlines and military aircraft, according to Felton Watkins. The National Guard has a C-17 unit located at this facility.
“General Aviation aircraft avoid the Jackson-Evers airport because of high fees,” Watkins explained. “The last time I flew into [KJAN] was on a Saturday with great flying weather. We were conducting an Angel Flight and were the only General Aviation aircraft on the ramp.”
What to see and where to eat
As the largest city in the state, Jackson, Mississippi, has a lot going on. “Jackson has numerous outstanding restaurants and museums that are worth a visit,” said Watkins.
Within the Jackson metro area, you can visit a children’s museum, a natural science museum, an art museum, the state capitol and governor’s mansion, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame…truly, too much to list here.
I have selected just a few of the attractions in Jackson and arranged the information in pairs, with a place to go and a place (or two) to eat.
Eudora Welty House; Manship Kitchen
If you appreciate Southern writers and literary fiction like I do, the Eudora Welty House is a must. I’m currently in the middle of “The Optimist’s Daughter,” Welty’s 1972 novel, and can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. An acclaimed photographer as well, Welty was a lifelong resident of Jackson and lived at the family home at 1119 Pinehurst St. until her death in 2001.
Guided tours of Welty’s home in the Belhaven neighborhood are offered for a small fee Tuesday through Friday and on the second Saturday of every month at designated times. Reservations are recommended.
If you’re just dropping in, the exhibits at the Education Center located next door to the home can be seen weekdays during business hours at no charge. Currently, selected letters are on display—over 15,000 pieces of correspondence were in Welty’s home—and include notes to friends around the world expressing her fondness for her hometown.
After your tour, the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen off North State Street might be a good place to stop for a bite to eat. The restaurant has indoor and (some) outdoor dining, with Mediterranean dishes (Greek-style chicken) and classic Southern food (fried okra) on the menu. The Manship opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Brunch is available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as the restaurant is closed on Sunday.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum; Bully’s Restaurant, Brent’s Drugs
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in the Eastover neighborhood of Jackson is like you’d expect it to be, with something extra: a nod to agplanes.
In addition to exhibits like “Small Town Mississippi” and information about Mississippi’s lumber production at the turn of the 20th century, the museum also houses the National Agricultural Aviation Museum.
In this 5,000-square-foot space, you can view a Stearman A75 biplane with a 450 hp engine, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub converted to a “Cutback Cub,” along with a Piper PA-25 Pawnee and a Grumman Ag Cat.
If you get hungry, one restaurant that gets rave reviews is Bully’s in the Fondren neighborhood west of I-55. At Bully’s, soul food (like oxtails) and plate lunches (like barbecue and fried chicken) can be enjoyed Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plus, they have peach cobbler!
If you’d prefer a milkshake and a burger, consider a stop at Brent’s Drugs, just off North State Street in the Mid North District. This old-fashioned soda fountain has been in operation since the 1940s.
Several other popular restaurants near Brent’s include Walker’s Drive-In (upscale and “locavore”-friendly) and the Pig & Pint (great barbecue, with a beer list that’s beyond extensive).
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Museum of Mississippi History; Iron Horse Grill, Hal and Mal’s
If you can make the time, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum deserves your full attention. The struggles of the civil rights era are arranged in eight different galleries for visitors. It’s an immersive experience that isn’t always comfortable to see.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8; $6 for seniors age 60-plus. Youth admission (ages 4–18) is $5 and children 3 and under are admitted for free.
The Museum of Mississippi History, which shares a lobby with the civil rights museum, tells the stories of Mississippians from 13,000 B.C. to today. Museum-goers will see artifacts from the slave trade, learn about the boll weevil and see how Hurricane Katrina affected Mississippi, plus much more.
Dual admission (both museums) is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for youth. Both the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History open their doors for free on the third Saturday of every month. The museums are located on North Street near the Eudora Welty Library and Old Capitol Inn.
West of the museums, on Pearl Street, you’ll find the Iron Horse Grill. The site of this restaurant began as the Armour Smokehouse in the early 1900s, experienced two fires, and was eventually abandoned. Biloxi shrimp fajitas, redfish tacos, the Iron Horse burger… all are prepared on a charcoal grill. The restaurant is open every day of the week at 11 a.m. (10:30 a.m. on Sundays).
Another spot, Hal and Mal’s, is just south of the museums on Commerce Street. Hal and Mal’s offers a great menu with soup, salads, sandwiches and seafood. It’s a favorite venue for local live music, with blues—the Central Mississippi Blues Society hosts a weekly event—along with jazz, singer-songwriters and country artists frequently on the bill.
Planning your trip
Staying downtown in Jackson can be a great choice, as many of the hotels are new. The nine-story Westin Jackson is the most recent addition (it was completed in 2017), and three other hotels—a Hilton, a Marriott and the Old Capitol Inn boutique hotel—offer plenty of rooms within a few blocks of core downtown attractions. These four, and at least 10 other hotels, are within 7 miles of Hawkins Field.
I’d suggest scheduling a long weekend for Thursday to Saturday, with a Sunday departure. The City with Soul has many things to enjoy—but several of them are not accessible on Sundays or Mondays.
Jackson is ready for you
November can be a great time to visit Jackson, Mississippi. The average high is 68 F and autumn is typically dry.
Spring is another great time, according to Felton Watkins. “Do not miss the St. Paddy’s Day parade!” he told me. (Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival will take place March 23, 2019. —Ed.)
Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .